Before I get too far into this blog post, I want to let you know that Sugar is sitting at my feet right now. We have had a tough few weeks with her, and I am realizing that the rest of her life is going to be measured in months instead of years. I have decided that I want to share her story with you while she is still here, not after she has passed. Because, after she goes I am not sure I will have it in my heart to write this.
So Sugar – the world’s worst dog. Yes, I borrowed that from Marley and Me. I am sure that you’ve read the book or seen the movie. And I am sure that every dog owner can relate to the story of Marley. A dog we let into our hearts and into our family who lives a long life. Heartbreaking book/movie.
Like Marley, Sugar came into our lives when Dimitri and I were a newlywed couple. Technically she came into our lives just two months before we were married (June 2002). I wanted a puppy and I found Sugar on an animal rescue website. I fell in love. I asked Dimitri to go get her and he did. At the time, we lived in Wisconsin. Dimitri drove to Iowa and picked Sugar up and brought her home. She peed on the front seat of his car on the way home.
Sugar was with us from the beginning. When we became an “Us” – a family. She was our first baby and she was crazy. Like Marley and Me, Sugar went from being this cute puppy to the BIG crazy puppy in a blink of an eye. She chewed on and destroyed everything. She chewed the leg of our kitchen table, she ate 3 remote controls in one day, she ate Dimitri’s glasses, she ate my shoes, the comforter on our bed, she tore apart pillows, and her favorite trick was to take a bite right out of the roll of toilet paper next to the toilet. One Thanksgiving, we brought her back to Iowa and she got spooked from the wind in the back yard and came running full speed into the house and ran right through a closed glass door. She managed to do this unharmed, thankfully.
I took her to obedience school but we dropped out. She would do everything for me at home, but the minute we got to school with the other dogs – she was out of her mind excited and crazy. The teacher got after me about not keeping her in control, so I didn’t go back and we didn’t graduate. We flunked out.
Also like Marley and Me, Dimitri and I didn’t have the easiest time having a baby at first. We had two losses before Ethan came around. I just remember those weeks when I was on the couch recovering and with a broken heart, Sugar was right by my side the entire time.
When Ethan came along – life picked up pace. Soon, we were moving back to our hometown in Iowa and not long after, Owen joined our family. Sugar was there for all of it. I worried how she would react to having kids in the house, but after a few sniffs of a new baby she welcomed them in as a new sibling. She played with them, cuddled them and protected them like a good dog should. Although she was still trouble. She was still big, and playful and crazy.
Sugar tore up our yard, chewed on the kid’s toys, ate puzzle pieces, and stole their food. Nothing was safe on the kitchen table or the kitchen counter. It seemed like she always knew right when I had both boys napping and that is when she decided to bark at a leaf blowing across the driveway. I would then have two babies crying and a crazy barking dog. Life was hectic.
Like Marley and Me, at one point I almost gave up on Sugar. I was overwhelmed with two young boys, was sleep deprived, and hormonal. Sugar ate a tube of diaper rash cream and proceeded to throw-up piles and piles of stinky diaper rash cream from one end of my house to the other. I had had enough and put an ad in the paper to give her to someone. FREE TO A GOOD HOME. The ad wasn’t in the paper for more than one day (with no takers) when I felt horribly guilty and I called the paper and canceled it.
By the time Zooey came around, Sugar was mellowing a bit, although she still had her moments of being the world’s worst dog. She loved to find my purse and pull everything out of it. Puzzle pieces still a tasty treat to her. The yard still a mess. I would find piles of rainbow dog-poo in the yard from the crayons that she ate. She chased the cat and barked at every little noise outside. One time she managed to find a BIG can of peanuts that the boys had left out and finished at least 1/2 the can during the middle of the night. I found little “nut rolls” all over the house in the morning. Add the craziness of this dog with the craziness of three little kids in a house ..oh my.
But even with all of that, Sugar was always a lover, a friendly face. She always loves a belly rub. I always tell people who came to visit – don’t pet her unless you plan on doing that the entire time you are here. Once you start, she won’t let you stop. Sugar is one of the kids – always ready to wrestle on the floor with Dimitri. Always ready to run and jump and have fun. Sugar loves her family.
Last December I blogged about how Sugar got sick. I really thought she might not make it back then. But then she bounced back. She never was 100% back to herself after her episode in December, but she was doing fairly well. And we all just accepted she was getting older but none of us were ready to say good-bye. Sugar included. So we just kept moving along with our lives not really thinking about how she was creeping up in age.
Then, just a few days before we left for our trip to Park Rapids, it happened again. The same experience we had in December. We rushed Sugar to the vet to hear the same story. She had vestibular disease. It might be an inner ear infection and it might be a brain tumor, only time will tell. We left Sugar in the care of my parents while we were away. I checked in frequently and worried about her the entire time we were gone. Some talks happened before we left regarding if it was time to say good-bye to her now. What would happen if she got worse while we were away? Sugar had one bad day at my parents but otherwise I think she enjoyed and probably needed the peace of a quiet house (kid-free) to recover. The last couple of weeks have had their ups and downs. We had another rush into the vet on a very bad day. Unfortunately I was out-of-town for work, but luckily my parents were around to watch her and my Mom and Dimitri ended up taking her in. The vet told us that Sugar most likely has a brain tumor. Thankfully, she is not in any pain and is not suffering at this time. She tilts her head funny, she loses her balance sometimes, and I think she can’t see much out of her right eye. At this point she has good days and bad days. But the good days seem to outweigh the bad at this point. She still wants constant petting. She still thumps her tail on the floor when she sees one of us walk into a room. She still gets into the garbage. She still steals food off of the corners of the kitchen table. She has been caught going from window to front door, back to window again, barking at the neighbors cat.
So for now, she is here with us. For how much longer, I can’t say. Everyday, we just pet her and tell her we love her. The world’s worst dog.
You know all that stuff we’ve always said about you?” I whispered. “What a total pain you are? Don’t believe it. Don’t believe it for a minute, Marley.” He needed to know that, and something more, too. There was something I had never told him, that no one ever had. I wanted him to hear it before he went. Marley,” I said. “You are a great dog.”
― John Grogan, Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog